Eric Rosenthal Reports

Thoughts and observations about issues, trends, and controversies in the cancer community.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Catching Up Briefly with Nancy Brinker in Europe

Nancy Brinker had been busy in Europe this month promoting Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s global mission to end breast cancer in the United States and worldwide through research, outreach, advocacy, and programs when I caught up with her by phone yesterday in Lyon, France, shortly after the World Breast Cancer Report 2012 was released during the National Cancer Institute Directors meeting there.


The report was funded by Komen through the Lyon-based World Prevention Alliance and published by the International Prevention Research Institute. 


Its findings concluded that:


  • Breast cancer incidence and mortality are increasing by 3.1% annually throughout the world and what had primarily been a disease of women from developed nations is now affecting a greater number of women from less-developed areas as well.
  • The number of deaths from breast cancer each year, about 450,000 worldwide in 2010, is now equally divided between developed and developing nations.
  • Significant disparities in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and outcome exist between higher and lower income countries as well as between the rich and poor in high-income nations.

Brinker, Komen’s founder and CEO, said that, “some of our beliefs are not correct anymore.”


“Breast cancer is no longer just a disease of rich, well-fed women now that an equal number [of women] from low-income countries are also dying.”


She said her organization was currently designing some tools to determine which of its grants were more effective in increasing survival rates.


“The next steps include educating people and developing metrics to measure effectiveness, “ she said, also noting the importance of overcoming barriers to care and providing continuing care, and citing ASCO President Sandra M. Swain, MD’s breast cancer clinic at Washington Hospital’s Washington Cancer Institute as a successful example of community outreach.


The Lyon meeting was Brinker’s second sighting in several days since delivering a speech in Barcelona, Spain during the European Association for Cancer Research Congress.


I asked if she was increasing her visibility since the controversy that had erupted earlier in the year over Komen’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood programs (which was later reversed but did not lessen public outrage over how the situation had been handled), and she said, “I’m not making more appearances now, they are just being noted more.”


OT reported in June that she was not available to receive a public service award at ASCO’s Chicago annual meeting because she had a conflict with Komen’s Global Race for the Cure in Washington, DC.


Brinker said that she would also be attending an AIDS conference in Montreal, Canada in August and traveling to Kenya in the fall.


And she promised that she would speak with me again after the November elections about the controversy that began toward the end of 2011 and subsequently overtook Komen earlier this year when news concerning the decision became public.